Fairy Fencer F PS3 Review
If you’re a longtime player of JRPGs then it’s safe to assume that you may also be a longtime watcher of Anime. You may have noticed over the years how JRPGs tend to emulate whatever trends popularize the Anime genre; the ’80s featured standard fantasy settings with princesses, dragons and eye-covering hair; the ’90s saw rise to more philosophical stories with heavy emphasis on character development, courtesy of the breakout success of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
It should come as no surprise, then, that companies like Compile Heart have focused their JRPG premises around the concept of Moe (which in abridged terms refers to cute girls with cute quirks….also that’s pronounced “moe-ay”, not “moe”); while the Anime genre may not be as “doomed” as hardcore fans may claim, there is no doubt that Moe-centric shows have taken over a large amount of its distribution…consequently, a similar sentiment has found its way onto JRPGs, complete with jaded naysayers also proclaiming its downfall.
Whatever the case may be, the developers of Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War have released a new series called Fairy Fencer F for the PS3. On appearances alone, the game gives off an all-too familiar Moe vibe, which will probably excite some people while simultaneously repulsing others. The game’s collection of girls both cute and curvy are clearly designed to appeal to a certain demographic, but stick with this review and you may realize that the game may be worth your time.
Fairy Fencer F opens up with a back-story about two gods fighting to the death, because of course it would: it’s a JRPG. After centuries have passed over the battle between the Vile God and the Goddess (quick, guess which one is the bad God), main protagonist Fang finds himself unexpectedly summoning the Fairy Eryn, who is tasked with reviving the Goddess by collecting all of the world’s Furies (magical weapons that house the Fairies within). This newfound partnership proves to be an immediate problem, as Fang is actually a lazy good-for-nothing who is only concerned with eating and sleeping when he sees fit (to which he spins his way of life as “deciding my own fate”).
After being convinced that reviving the Goddess will allow him to make any wish come true, Fang reluctantly embarks on the quest to collect the Furies (naturally, his wish is for food). In addition to Eryn, Fang is soon partnered up with Tiara, a self-proclaimed noblewoman whose rude behavior and sharp tongue quickly earn the contempt of Fang and Eryn. Other quirky characters soon follow, each with their own Fairy partner and motivations for joining Fang’s party, but they all come in handy in a fight. Unfortunately, a world famous corporation that is (gasp!) secretly evil have their own reasons to collect the Furies, which results in a personal war between the two parties over the fate of the world.
If you’ve played a lot of JRPGs and/or watched a lot of Anime, you’ve seen this story before. Fairy Fencer’s plot may not break new ground, but its primary cast of characters may grow on you. The game’s humor also manages to feature more than a handful of amusing moments and one-liners, especially in regards to Fang’s lackadaisical nature along with his brief, occasionally boneheaded moments of heroism. The game is also much tamer than you might expect in regards to fanservice, though there is one barely-clothed busty party member who bears the brunt of Fairy Fencer’s innuendo. Regardless, the game manages to be far more charming than creepy, and even manages a few intriguing twists with some of its characters.
On the gameplay side of things, Fairy Fencer F also does not innovate much; players navigate through dungeons on the world map, encounter enemies on the field which then transition to a 3D plane that is similar to Namco’s Tales Of series if it followed traditional turn-based RPG combat (a closer comparison would be Radiata Stories on the PS2, for anyone who remembers that game). Once a character’s turn comes up, they are able to attack, utilize skills or magic, use an item or go into a defensive position to skip their turn. An additional ability comes in the form of Fairize, an Anime-inspired power-up complete with its own vocal theme once that character’s tension meter has filled up.
One of the main draws to the game’s familiar combat mechanics is how quickly it is to get through battles. An average fight can be completed in under a minute, or even quicker when using the L2 button to skip entire animations from both party members and enemies. Dungeons tend to be of the short variety as well, though they do carry an old school restriction of having just one save point in each dungeon (and don’t expect an auto-save or retry feature; fall in battle and it’s an instant loss of progress following your last save). That said, the game’s main challenges tend to come from its fodder enemies, as most boss fights are a cakewalk thanks to Fairize (however, the game does tend to arbitrarily interrupt some fights for story purposes, forcing players to restart the battle with the boss’s health restored. This can prove rather annoying for players who wasted their attacks on the first phase, as none of it is restored during the second phase).
The other draw is the amount of customization options given to players, and in quick fashion. Characters gain levels through experience points, as usual, but they can also gain weapon points which are used to unlock new abilities and/or boost stat parameters (including physical attacks, defense, Fairize duration, combos and more). The most important aspect, however, are the collectible Furies, which contain equippable Fairies that offer specific stat boosts (such as extra exp gained, resistance to certain elements, etc) that can also be leveled. The Furies can also be used for World Shaping, which plunges a Fury into an area’s icon on the world map, offering a persistent boost to that area which can prove advantageous in a number of ways while simultaneously hindering players; a Fury that offers extra experience gained in an area, for example, can contain a side effect that also lowers physical defense. Another Fury can offer extra weapon points in exchange for enemies dealing double damage. There is even the ability to add extra, typically more powerful enemies to an existing area, which becomes a requirement for fulfilling certain sidequests offered at the town’s pub. It’s up to players to decide which bonuses they want to utilize in a dungeon, and whether or not they can cope with the negative cost associated with it.
Visually, Fairy Fencer looks its best when sticking to cutscenes, which feature talking character portraits with subtle animations (including jiggle physics for the female characters, because of course it would: it’s a JRPG by Compile Heart). Unfortunately, the game’s sub-PS2 era graphics while inside dungeons and combat are hampered by a framerate that dips well below 30. Fortunately, the framerate has no bearing on the fast-paced battles, and the soundtrack has a good share of tunes both catchy and well-crafted, including a selection of tracks by Nobuo Uematsu, best known for his work on the Final Fantasy series. Curiously, the game also features conceptual artwork from another FF veteran, Yoshitaka Amano, a star-studded combination one would not expect to find in a game like this.
In the end, Fairy Fencer F is a solid RPG that does not break any new ground, but trims enough of the fat for an easily digestible experience. The heavy Anime aesthetic and characters may prove a positive or negative depending on the player, but anyone looking for a surprisingly addictive RPG experience could do far worse.